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StatDNA departure shows concerning Raul Sanllehi trend

Jaeson Rosenfeld, who runs StatDNA, an internal analytics company at Arsenal, is reportedly set to depart. His exist reveals a concerning trend under head of football, Raul Sanllehi.

The Arsenal recruitment has never been the most successful. Arsene Wenger was often loyal in the wrong players. More recently, the club has invested heavily in sub-standard targets. Panic buys are frequent and cheap sales are equally as painfully prevalent.

It is difficult to know which aspect of the club has impacted which decision. Did Wenger really want Shkodran Mustafi? Was Ivan Gazidis the one pushing for Granit Xhaka? Which scouts were championing Mesut Ozil or Gabriel Martinelli or Matteo Guendouzi or Mohamed Elneny?

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In reality, we will never know. However, the recruitment approach at the club is changing, and at least from the basic premise of examining the robustness and sustainability of the process, it is not for the betterment of the team.

As reported by David Ornstein and James McNicholas of The Athletic, Jaeson Rosenfeld, who is the head of Arsenal’s internal statistic company, StatDNA, has departed the club and will join up with Wenger at FIFA. Rosenfeld is highly thought of in the analytics and football community and has overseen the Gunners’ analytical approach for the past decade.

His exit is a continued shift in transfer approach from the club. After the exits of Wenger, Ivan Gazidis and Sven Mislintat, Raul Sanllehi has taken an increasingly controlling role at the club. He was subsequently named Head of Football and is now the head honcho alongside Technical Director, Edu Gaspar. Sanllehi has steered away from the analytically-driven approach and towards a more relational one.

Sanllehi is an old-school director. He has fingers in pies. His contacts book is as long as a piece of string. He leans on those he knows. He does business with super agents and clients he knows personally, somewhat irrespective of the footballing reasons for or against the move. It is obviously not an ideal way to run a modern-day football club.

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But there is another argument to be made here: Arsenal’s recruitment has been poor over the past decade, and StatDNA played a part in that. Now, it is unknowable just what part they played. This information will never be publicly released. No one is aware which players StatDNA proposed or not, though they are said to have been against handing Unai Emery a new contract when Sanllehi was eager to extend the manager’s deal.

However, while the past recruitment has been underwhelming and wasteful, you can analyse the shift in the process from a broader spectrum. Alright, what yields the results are not known, but what is quite evident is that using statistics and analytics to find and sign players is a smart way to run your transfer business. Leaning on seedy agents is less so.

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Sadly, however, that is the way Arsenal are leaning towards. Sanllehi trusts his contacts, and this is just the latest development that illustrates the shift in recruitment approach. Despite not knowing what yielded past results, it is a concerning trend, to say the least.

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